Photographer in police picture ban sparks Met probe (update 3.15pm)
June 29, 2010
The Metropolitan Police has promised to launch an investigation after its officers prevented a photographer taking pictures of police cadets in Romford, Essex.
Police initially told freelance photographer Jules Mattsson that he needed parental permission to take photos of the cadets who were taking part in a parade to mark Armed Forces Day on Saturday.
Mattsson repeatedly, yet politely, informed officers that they had no right to stop him taking pictures in a public place.
Despite his protests, Mattsson, 16, said police took his camera, frogmarched him away from the area and pushed him down some stairs after he refused to give an officer his personal details.
The reasons for stopping the photographer appeared to change by the minute, as revealed in Mattsson?s conversation with police which he recorded on his mobile phone and uploaded to YouTube afterwards, along with some pictures (see below).
At one point an officer tells the photographer that police do not need the power of the law to stop him taking pictures.
Mattsson – a student working as a photographer in his spare time – was told he was breaching the Terrorism Act, Public Order Act and child protection laws.
?I was quickly and aggressively stopped by one of their [police cadet?s] adult officers asking me who I worked for ?? the photographer wrote in his blog.
?I responded that I was a freelance and upon being told I needed parental permission to photograph them, I explained this was a public event in a public place and that I didn?t for editorial use.?
The incident happened soon after Amateur Photographer announced a lens cloth outlining the rules on photography in public places, to be given away free with next week’s issue of the magazine.
Alexander Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, told Amateur Photographer: ‘Some officers think that anti-terror legislation gives them blanket powers to hassle people whenever they want. This case is a very bad example of that.
‘Confronted by bullying and hectoring policemen, acting entirely outside their powers, this young man admirably stood up for himself and rightly maintained that he was entitled to take pictures in a public place.
‘The police should apologise immediately and admit that they were wrong.’
It is not yet clear whether Mattsson intends to take legal action against police.
However, he told Amateur Photographer this afternoon (29 June): ‘I can confirm I am in legal discussions about the incident.’
The photographer declined to comment further.
Police risk breaking law themselves
Earlier this year the Metropolitan Police warned officers they police risk breaking the law if they stop photographers, using counter-terrorism legislation.
Guidance for officers using Section 58A of the Terrorism Act, which makes a photograph of a police constable a potential crime only if police deem it likely to be useful to a terrorist, states: ‘There is nothing preventing officers asking questions of an individual who appears to be taking photographs of someone who is or has been a member of Her Majesty’s Forces, Intelligence Services or a constable so long as this is being done for a lawful purpose and is not being done in a way that prevents, dissuades or inhibits that individual from doing something which is not unlawful.’
The Met?s guidelines add: ‘It would ordinarily be unlawful to use Section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests, because there would not normally be grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist.
?An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.’
Met: No intention to stop photographers
The Met has pledged to ?investigate the circumstances’ of the incident but had not yet received an official complaint from the photographer when contacted by Amateur Photographer this morning (29 June 2010).
In a statement a Met spokesman said: ?It is clearly not the intention of the MPS to prevent people from taking photographs, although, as the public would expect, officers will remain vigilant, particularly in crowded public places.
?Although at this time we have not received a complaint about this incident and no allegations of crime have been made, we will investigate the circumstances.
?Our officers do receive guidance around the issue of photography through briefings and internal communications and we continue to drive this forward.?